Google’s Unconsented Pornography Problem Is Getting Worse

In early 2022, two Google policy officers met with three women who were victims of a scam that led to their sexually explicit videos being distributed online—including through Google search results. The women were among hundreds of teens who responded to ads seeking swimsuit models only to be forced to perform in sex videos distributed by the website GirlsDoPorn. The website closed in 2020And producer, a bookkeeperAnd a cameraman Later pleaded guilty to sex traffickingBut these videos continue to appear in Google search results faster than women can request their removal.

The women, along with a lawyer and a security expert, presented a series of ideas for how Google could better hide offensive and degrading clips, according to five people who attended or were briefed on the online meeting. They wanted Google to ban sites dedicated to GirlsDoPorn and its watermarked videos. They suggested Google could borrow the 25-terabyte hard drive that the women’s cybersecurity consultant, Charles DeBarber, had stored every GirlsDoPorn episode on, take a mathematical fingerprint, or “hash,” of each clip, and block it from ever appearing in search results again.

Two Googlers at the meeting hoped to use what they learned to win more resources from their superiors. But the victim’s attorney, Brian Holm, left with doubts. The policy team was in “a difficult position” and “didn’t have the authority to make changes at Google,” he said.

His gut reaction was correct. Two years later, none of the ideas raised in the meeting have been implemented, and the videos still show up in searches.

WIRED spoke to five former Google employees and 10 victims’ advocates who contacted the company. All said they appreciated that recent changes Google has made have made it easier and more successful for survivors of image-based sexual abuse like the GirlsDoPorn scam. remove unwanted search resultsBut they are frustrated that the search giant’s management has yet to adopt proposals, such as the hard drive idea, that they believe would restore and protect the privacy of millions of victims around the world, most of whom are women.

The sources describe previously unreported internal discussions, including Google’s reasons for not using an industry tool called StopNCII to share information about non-consensual intimate images (NCII) and the company’s refusal to require porn sites to verify consent to qualify for search traffic. Google’s own research team has published Steps tech companies can take to combat NCII, including using StopNCII.

Sources believe such efforts would be better at stemming a growing problem, in part because Expand access to AI tools create clear deepfake, including survivors of GirlsDoPorn. Joint report to the UK revenge porn hotline more than doubled last year, up to around 19,000, as well as the number of incidents involving synthetic content. Half of the more than 2,000 British in a recent survey worried about falling victim to deepfakes. The White House in May urge faster action by lawmakers and industry to restrict NCII in general. In June, Google joined seven other companies and nine organizations in Notification working group to coordinate responses.

Currently, victims can pursue prosecution of abusers or pursue legal action against the sites hosting the content, but neither is guaranteed and both can be costly due to legal fees. Asking Google to remove results may be the most practical tactic, and serves the ultimate goal of keeping infringing content out of the reach of friends, hiring managers, potential landlords, or dates—all of whom are likely to turn to Google to search for people.

A Google spokesperson, who asked not to be named to avoid being harassed by the perpetrator, declined to comment on the call with GirlsDoPorn victims. She said that combating what the company calls non-consensual explicit imagery (NCEI) remains a top priority and that Google’s actions go beyond what is required by law. “Over the years, we have invested deeply in industry-leading policies and protections to help protect people affected by this harmful content,” she said. “Teams across Google continue to work hard to strengthen our protections and thoughtfully address emerging challenges to better protect people.”


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